Larry Provost

A recent New York Times editorial, authored by an academic student, says that Vietnam Veterans are behind white supremacist groups, ostensibly due to their military training. Such an editorial was a poorly disguised, and poorly researched, attempt at hiding a political agenda behind academia. The author focused on a few bad Veterans in the op-ed, but missed the overall picture of the millions of honorable Vietnam Veterans.

Vietnam Veterans are honorable heroes and they served us well. They fought and won a war that the politicians lost. While they were fighting the war, many of their peers hid from military service. Those peers, from the safety of their college draft deferment, protested against the war. This was the country they heard about in the jungles of Vietnam.

In light of what they faced Vietnam Veterans showed tremendous restraint. Years ago a study indicated that while many Vietnam Veterans had ambivalent feelings about the war, perhaps related to politicians unwillingness to win the war, most of Vietnam Veterans indicated that they would again serve in Vietnam if they had the choice. How balanced, thoughtful, and amazing the Vietnam Veteran really is.

Are military members trained to kill? Yes, and thank God they are. They kill to protect. They are also taught restraint, sometimes to the point that it endangers their own lives. Learning rules of engagement, sensitivity to mosques which often house the enemy, playing baseball lightly armed with children of the nation we are fighting in; these are the hallmarks of the American soldier from Viet Nam to Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, some of the protected have the luxury of not facing this reality and the media does not report the ordinary heroes of our Armed Services.

It is the Veteran who holds the starving child of his enemy his arms. It is the Veteran who goes and fights wars that their country does not understand. It is the Veteran who fights real wars while politicians declare “war on” this or “war on” that. It is the Veteran who endures real hardships, in the poorest of countries, against real enemies, while politicians on the campaign trail equate their opponents and their policies as equivalent to evil.

The Veteran protects those back home who do not understand them, including those who use them in a political agenda. The Veteran serves with friends of many skin tones yet sees only the color of red when their friend’s blood is spilled.

Perhaps if more people actually stood for military service, while their nation was at war, they would not only understand the military, but see the immeasurable benefits of discipline, duty, courage, and honor that are the hallmarks of our fighting service members.


Larry Provost

Larry Provost currently works at The American Legion in the National Security and Foreign Relations Division.